Opponents of Philadelphia’s soda tax might have another chance to fight it in court. This time, it’d take place in the highest court in the state.
The American Beverage Association and a number of other organizations and individuals who opposed Philadelphia’s sugar-sweetened beverage tax have appealed their lawsuit against the city to the state Supreme Court, court records show. It remains unclear whether or not the court will accept the case.
In June, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court — the appeals court that’s a step below the state Supreme Court — upheld the 1.5-cent-per-ounce levy and sided with Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, with five judges in favor and two dissenting.
The sugar-sweetened beverage tax that was proposed by Kenney and adopted by City Council in last year was put in place, according to the administration, to fund projects like universal pre-K, community schools and a project to rebuild the city’s libraries, parks and community centers. Some of those projects have been put on hold, including delaying adding new pre-K seats, a move the city blames on the lawsuit filed by the American Beverage Association and on behalf of local distributors.
The American Beverage Association and its allies, including the Pennsylvania Beverage Association and local small businesses, claims the tax is illegal and violates a state law that prohibits municipalities from establishing taxes on items that are already taxed at the state level. In December, a Common Pleas Court judge ruled against the ABA, and the plaintiffs appealed to the Commonwealth Court, one of Pennsylvania’s two intermediary appellate courts.
Shanin Specter, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, declined to comment further.
In a statement, City Solicitor Sozi Tulante said though he’s not surprised by the appeal, he’s “confident” about the legality of the tax. Kenney added that it’s “unfortunate that the beverage industry continues to try to challenge the beverage tax despite two clear and convincing rulings by the Common Pleas and Commonwealth Courts.”